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illustrations for gratitude Luke 17 thanksgiving sermon

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Taylor Ostergaard and Linsey Zellitti wanted to bless their neighbors. On July 31, 2004, the two teenage girls decided to bake cookies for their neighbors rather than attend a school dance.After baking the cookies, the girls set out late that evening. They left the fresh-baked goods only at houses with the lights on. It was 10:30 p.m. when they pounded on the door of one home. The 49-year-old woman inside didn’t answer the door, but she did experience an anxiety attack over the late-night visit. After a trip to the emergency room the next day, the woman decided to sue the girls. And she won.The judge awarded the plaintiff $900 to cover the emergency room visit. The woman said she wanted the girls to learn a lesson, because they should not have been out late at night running from door to door. “Something bad could have happened to them,” she said.After the story was published in the Denver Post, hundreds of readers were outraged that the girls were sued for dropping off a plate of cookies and a paper heart for their neighbors. Thousands of dollars poured in to help the girls pay their fine. Their story was reported on national news programs, and the girls appeared on the Saturday edition of Good Morning America. As a result of the publicity, a fund has been set up for the girls' college expenses. Interested donors have the option to contribute to the “Never Forgotten” Scholarship Fund for Columbine High School students.The girls were rewarded many times over for their act of kindness. The saying “No good deed goes unpunished” is not ultimately true. Even if our attempts to bless others are rejected and unrewarded in this life, God will one day bless us.Mike Lundberg, Montrose, Colorado; source: Electa Draper, Denver Post (2-4-05 and 2-6-05)

Journalist James Glassman declares that "a culture of complaint" has infected American society. The grievances of Americans are many, but include a protest against the prevalence of outsourcing, as U.S. companies move jobs to countries like China and India. Some Americans file complaints against food companies, seeking to hold a corporation responsible for making them fat. Others seek litigation against banks for lending them money even though they were a credit risk. There are complaints about overcrowding in schools, low paying jobs, and cheap foreign labor. The truth is that some of these complaints are unfounded or else ignore offsetting blessings.

Compare the American way of life with the low quality of life people in other countries experience. Glassman writes, "Is it fair for Americans, with our rich infrastructure, our clean water, our incredible financial markets, to compete against poor Indians, who have to climb over sleeping beggars on their way to work? Who should be complaining here?"

According to Glassman, there are many reasons not to complain:

·                     In 1955 the ratio of students to teachers was 30 to 1. Today it is 19 to 1.

·                     Adjusted for inflation, compensation has tripled since 1947, and the cost of necessities has plummeted.

·                     Food in 1950 represented about one third of a family's total expenditures; today, it's one seventh.

·                     The U.S. Gross Domestic Product is more than the total of the next five countries.

·                     The current U.S. unemployment rate of 5.7% is lower than the average rate over the last 30 years and lower than most countries, including industrialized countries.

·                     Americans work fewer hours, and have more cars, cultural institutions, and children in college than ever before.

The U.S. may jeopardize her prosperity if too many citizens demand and expect an easy road through life and complain about the smallest obstacles and setbacks.

I don't think I'll ever forget an incident a few years ago while I was helping a friend plant a tree at the local park. She had planted 23 trees in all, most of them without any help. The trees were donated in remembrance of loved ones by family members. While we were working, a woman approached us. I recognized her and assumed she was there to say thank you.

"Remember the tree you planted for me the other day?" she asked.

My friend nodded.

"You planted it too close to the road. It needs to be moved." Then she turned and left.

I don't think this woman was intentionally rude. She was probably distracted, or maybe she'd had a bad day, but the fact remains that out of the 23 trees my friend planted, only two people remembered to say, "Thank you."

Teresa Bell Kindred, Kentucky Living (October 2000);

Our biggest problem in the church today is this vast majority of Sunday morning Christians who claim to have known the Master's cure and who return not [at other times] to thank Him by presence, prayer, testimony and support of His church. In fact, the whole Christian life is one big "Thank You," the living expression of our gratitude to God for His goodness. But we take Him for granted and what we take for granted we never take seriously.

A man writing at the post office desk was approached by an older fellow who had a post card in his hand. The old man said, "Sir, could you please address this post card for me?" The man gladly did so, and he agreed to write a short message on the post card, and he even signed it for the man, too.

Finally the man doing the writing said to the older man, "Now, is there anything else I can do for you?"

The old fellow thought about it for a minute, and he said, "Yes, at the end could you just put, 'P.S. Please excuse the sloppy handwriting.'"

It is probable that in most of us the spiritual life is impoverished and stunted because we give so little place to gratitude. It is more important to thank God for blessings received than to pray for them beforehand. For that forward-looking prayer, though right as an expression of dependence upon God, is still self-centered in part, at least, of its interest; there is something we hope to gain by our prayer. But the backward-looking act of thanksgiving is quite free from this. In itself it is quite selfless.

9/10 Americans have some religious affiliation

8/10 Americans say they are Christians

7/10 Americans say they pray regularly

6/10 Teenagers who claim to be Christians will not continue their religious practices into their 20s

5/10 Americans attend church at least one time per month

4/10 Americans have read at least a portion of the Bible

3/10 Americans have read “The DaVinci Code”

2/10 Americans who say they are Christians tithe regularly

1/10 Healed lepers demonstrated gratitude



Lifetime Contract

After one particularly good season, famed St. Louis Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog was called into the office of Augie Busch, the team's 95-year-old owner.

"You had such a great year," Busch enthused, "I want to give you a lifetime contract!" "That's great," Herzog tentatively replied, "but are you talking about my lifetime, or yours?"

Exceptional Soldiers?

William Pitt was once visited in London by several volunteers offering their services as militiamen. While they agreed to organize and equip themselves, their offer was circumscribed with so many qualifications as to be of little use.

Pitt read through their proposal, whose umpteenth clause stipulated that they never be required to leave the kingdom - whereupon he took up his pen and added in the margin: "except in the case of actual invasion."

Demi Moore Moore Moore

In 1992, Sony graciously sent a plane to fly Demi Moore to New York (from Idaho) to attend the premiere of A Few Good Men. Moore promptly demanded that the studio send a second plane. The problem? The first one, she explained, was too small to carry all of her luggage without stacking bags on top of one another.

Boomer Esiason: Good Samaritan

While driving home after a disappointing 28-24 loss to the Miami Dolphins one day in 1995, New York Jets quarterback Boomer Esiason had to stop his car because of an accident in front of him.

He got out of his car and asked a woman in the car in front of him if she was all right. Her car window was broken, and she was in tears. "She looked at me," Esiason recalled, "and said, 'Boomer?' I said, 'Yes.' She said, 'You guys really (stink), how'd you lose that game today?'"

[Trivia: "In 1981, Peter Stankiewicz stopped his car and dove into the Potomac River to rescue a driver whose lumber truck had crashed through a bridge railing and plunged 60 feet into the icy water. After hauling the driver to shore, Stankiewicz was informed that his car had been towed to the pound because it was blocking traffic."]

John D. Rockefeller once discovered that, for his birthday, his family planned to surprise him with an electric car. This new toy, it was thought, would facilitate his travels around his enormous estate.

"If it's all the same to you," Rockefeller baldly declared, "I'd rather have the money."

Rockefeller, John Davison, Sr. (1839-1937) American oil magnate, financier and philanthropist; Standard Oil Company founder; father of John D. Rockefeller, Jr

[Sources: R. Shenkman, One-Night Stands with American History]

Meryl Streep: Oscar Blooper

In 1979, Meryl Streep won an Academy Award for her brilliant portrayal of Joanna Kramer in Kramer vs. Kramer. During the post-awards festivities, she visited the ladies' room - and forgot her Oscar on the back of a toilet.

[In 1953, Audrey Hepburn also forgot an Oscar (for Roman Holiday) in the ladies' room.]

Terrible Fate

In 1555, Ivan the Terrible ordered the construction of St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow. So thrilled was Ivan with the work of the project's architects, Postnik and Barma, that - in order to ensure that neither would ever build anything more beautiful - he had them both blinded.

Bottom of Form

Bottom of Form

When answering questions for their Internet profiles, contestants on the TV show American Idol were not shy when it comes to their faith. When asked what they do before performing, 14 of the 24 finalists referred to prayer. Kinnik Sky replied, "Prayer before anything," and Brenna Gethers said, "I pray before I sing, every time."

When asked about her personal goals in life, Heather Cox replied, "To continue to succeed in everything that the Lord has in store for me." Melissa McGhee said she wanted "to succeed in the music industry, have a beautiful marriage, and stay on the path with God."

Mandisa Hundley witnessed: "Jesus is my hero. He saved my life." Mandisa told of the influence author and speaker Beth Moore has had upon her: "She inspires me to live more like Jesus, and I want to do the same."

In response to the question, "If you win, who will you thank first?" 16 of the finalists didn't hesitate to acknowledge their allegiance to God. Some of their responses included:

"I would thank God first…"
"My personal Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ."
"God, then my wife …"
"God, then my Mom."
"God! (of course)."
"I will first thank God Almighty!"
"God, then my family."
"Jesus! He's so good to me."
"My savior, Jesus Christ."

On a flight from Atlanta to Chicago in July 2004, nine U.S. soldiers—home from Iraq on a two-week leave—were among the passengers. Before one of the soldiers boarded, a passenger traded his first class ticket for the soldier's coach ticket. As the plane was boarding, other passengers asked to trade their first class seats for the coach seats occupied by the remaining soldiers.

Devilla Evans, a flight attendant on the American Airlines flight, said "it was a privilege to be flying with those two groups of unselfish people: those who would put their lives on the line to protect their fellow citizens' freedom, and those who were not ashamed to say thank you."

Words have the power to shape a life. We've all heard the lie, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me." Entire lives are shaped by the words of a few. Fortunately, those same lives can be reshaped by the right words at the right time.

The following is an excerpt from a speech by Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland's 7th District representative, delivered at Howard University, for the 2000 Education Leadership Summit, December 4, 2000.

This morning, as I drove through the early-morning, South Baltimore traffic toward I–95 and Washington, I passed near the elementary school that I attended nearly 40 years ago. I spent most of my elementary school training as an unhappy member of what then was called the 3rd group—what we today call special education.

To this day, I remember the cold, incredulous, rejecting words of my 6th grade school counselor. "You want to be a lawyer? Who do you think you are?" When I think back to that time, I do something I have done every morning of my adult life. I thank God for the wonderful adults who gave me my head start in life: I thanked God for Mr. Hollis Posey, the sixth grade teacher who listened to my dreams, who believed in my potential as a human being, and who taught to my strengths, not my limitations. And I thanked God for my parents, who convinced me that I could become whatever I decided to be.

I made it out of the 3rd group. I graduated second in my class from Baltimore City College High School. I became a Phi Beta Kappa at Howard University. I became a lawyer at the University of Maryland. I was elected to public office and rose to the position of speaker pro tem of the Maryland House of Delegates, and today I serve the people of Baltimore as a member of the Congress of the United States of America.

I survived and succeeded because of positive parental involvement, and because of Mr. Hollis Posey's belief in me, because he taught to my strengths and helped me learn and achieve in my own way. We must believe in our children. We must give them the opportunity to develop their unique and diverse abilities.

In his book Everybody's Normal Till You Get to Know Them, John Ortberg tells of a young man named John Gilbert. At age five, John was diagnosed with Duchenne's Muscular Dystrophy, a genetic, progressive, debilitating disease. At age 25, the disease finally claimed John's life.

Every year John lost something. One year, he lost the ability to run, so he couldn't play sports with the other kids. Another year he could no longer walk straight, so all he could do was watch others play. He lost the ability to do all the outward things that we think of that make us human. Eventually, he even lost the ability to speak….

John Gilbert suffered far more than what most of us can imagine during those years. Groups of students humiliated him because of his condition and because he had to bring a trained dog to school to help him. A bully used to torture him in the lunchroom where there were no supervising teachers. No one ever stood up for him; maybe they were afraid for themselves; who knows?

"What a silly species we are," John writes. "We all need to feel accepted ourselves, but we constantly reject others."

But John had other moments in his life, too. Once he was invited to a National Football League fundraising auction. When it began, one item in particular caught John's eye: a basketball signed by the players of the Sacramento Kings professional team. John so desperately wanted that ball that when it came up for bid, he felt his hand raise up in the air. Not having the funds to participate, John's mother quickly brought it back down.

They watched the bidding go up and up and up. It rose to an astounding amount compared to the value of the ball and especially compared to other items at the auction. Finally, a man made a bid that no one else could possibly match, and he won the prize.

The man walked to the front and claimed the basketball. But instead of going back to his seat, the man walked across the room and gently placed it into the thin, small hands of the boy who had desired it so strongly. The man put that ball into hands that would never dribble a ball down a court, never throw it to a teammate, never fire it from the foul line. But those hands would cherish it for as long as they lived.

"It took me a moment to realize what the man had done," John writes. "I remember hearing gasps all around the room, then thunderous applause and weeping eyes. To this day I'm amazed…Have you ever been given a gift that you could have never gotten for yourself? Has anyone ever sacrificed a huge amount for you without getting anything in return?”

Richard and Donna Hamann found a way to make their entire town happy. Anthon, Iowa, a community of 650 people, received an unexpected Christmas present from this retired farming couple.

The Hamanns paid the electric bill for every home and business in the town of Anthon. The bills, all due on Christmas day, totaled $25,000. Everyone appreciated the surprising and generous gift, and they expressed it with a stack of thank-you cards and letters.

The only question anyone had was: Why?

Richard answered it this way: "The Lord has been very good to us, and so have the people of this community, so I always thought we ought to be doing something in return if we could."

Roy Larson thought the most difficult part of his day would be maneuvering the unfamiliar stick shift on a "loaner" electric wheelchair as he ventured into downtown Glen Ellyn, Illinois, for a haircut.

But his day was about to become much more trying.

As he was crossing the railroad tracks on Main Street, one of the chair's wheels became lodged in the track. As Larson struggled to free the wheel, something went wrong with the chair's electrical system, and the chair refused to move.

Suddenly the lights began to flash, and the signal bells started to ring. The gates in front of Larson and behind him began to lower.

The first person Larson saw as he frantically looked for help was Mark Bade. Bade had been running an errand when he saw that Larson was in trouble. He sprinted to Larson's side and began to struggle with the chair.

At almost the same moment, Don Burgeson had stopped his car at the gates and saw what was happening. He leaped out of the car and helped Bade wrench the chair free from the track and drag it out of harm's way.

The three men looked up, just in time to see the train was less than 20 yards away.

"After the train went by, I just said thanks," Larson said. "The only reason I am here today is because these two guys saved my life."

Jesus Christ came to save our lives. We too need to say thanks.

Adapted from Cindy Urrea, "Instant Action, Instant Heroes," The Sun (9-28-01)

Anne Keegan's article "Blue Christmas" was a collection of Christmas stories told by Chicago police officers. One was the story of George White.

George lived in a rented room at the YMCA. He had one set of clothes, shoes wrapped with rubber bands to keep the soles from flopping, and a threadbare black overcoat. He spent his mornings napping in an old metal chair by the heater in the back of the 18th District office.

Two officers, Kitowski and Mitch, took an interest in the old man, occasionally slipping him a few bucks. They found out that Billy the Greek over at the G&W grill gave him a hot breakfast every morning, no charge.

The two policemen and their families decided to have George as their guest for Christmas dinner. They gave him presents, which he unwrapped carefully.

As they drove him back to the Y, George asked, "Are these presents really mine to keep?" They assured him they were. "Then we must stop at the G&W before I go home," he said. With that, George began rewrapping his presents.

When they walked into the restaurant, Billy the Greek was there as always. "You been good to me, Billy," said George. "Now I can be good to you. Merry Christmas." George gave all his presents away on the spot.

Generosity is natural when a grateful attitude prevails.

Chicago Tribune Magazine (12/24/95).

Mother Theresa told this story in an address to the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994: One evening we went out, and we picked up four people from the street. And one of them was in a most terrible condition. I told the sisters, "You take care of the other three; I will take care of the one who looks worst."

So I did for her all that my love could do. I put her in bed, and there was such a beautiful smile on her face. She took hold of my hand as she said two words only: "Thank you." Then she died. I could not help but examine my conscience before her. And I asked: What would I say if I were in her place? And my answer was very simple. I would have tried to draw a little attention to myself. I would have said, "I am hungry, I am dying, I am in pain," or something. But she gave me much more; she gave me her grateful love. And she died with a smile on her face. Gratitude brings a smile and becomes a gift.

John Henry Jowett, a British preacher of an earlier generation, said this about gratitude: "Gratitude is a vaccine, an antitoxin, and an antiseptic." What did he mean? He meant that gratitude, like a vaccine, can prevent the invasion of a disgruntled, discouraged spirit. Like an antitoxin, gratitude can prevent the affects of the poisons of cynicism, criticalness, and grumbling. Like an antiseptic, a spirit of gratitude can soothe and heal the most troubled spirit.

John Yates, "An Attitude of Gratitude,"

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